Easing The Backup Burden

Here's a look at how Paragon Protect & Restore 3 tackles today's backup and recovery challenges.

Frank Ohlhorst

March 4, 2014

6 Min Read
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Backup and recovery has become a complex and tedious chore as the amount of data that needs to be backed up grows exponentially. New backup products try to reduce the burden with a focus on automation for speed and reliability. Case in point is Paragon Software, with the latest iteration of its Paragon Protect & Restore product.

Getting Started

Paragon Protect & Restore 3 features an easy-to-use, wizard-driven interface for installation. Each installable element is highlighted in the installer and administrators can pick and choose which features are needed. The installer package can be used to register the product, perform upgrades, access a digital copy of the manual, as well as get support from the company.

The product features an easily navigated main console, which is used to perform backups and restorations as well as some basic configuration chores, such as creating backup servers, adding bridges to virtual machine environments, adding target systems and defining backup jobs.

Defining a Backup Server

One of the major challenges facing administrators with complex backup solutions is where to keep the backup data; in the past, many relied on tape or other media to store those backups. Today’s realities mean that tape may not be enough and other storage methodologies, such as hard drives, cloud storage or SSD technologies must be used. Simply put, selectable backup destinations are a critical feature to have today.

Paragon addresses this issue by making backup servers a primary component of the product and required as targets for backup jobs. They are easy to add to the backup platform and multiple target servers can be defined. Options for targets include traditional servers, as well as remote systems.

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An important consideration when selecting a backup server is performance. In other words, pick backup servers that offer ample bandwidth for backup jobs; performance over the wire is symbiotic with the bandwidth available. The product helps by providing information about the backup server, including space available on the target storage subsystems.

Primary and Secondary Storage

Backup destination selection can consist of many sub-features, which dictate speed, resiliency and overall storage costs; having additional choices (or tiers) create enhanced flexibility.

Protect & Restore offers a dual-tier storage infrastructure, which is designed to optimize the backup process by reducing the network traffic needed for simultaneous backups. The first-tier (primary) storage should reside as close to the target machines as possible, which ensures the highest backup or replication performance. Paragon claims that 90% of all restore operations occur while the local site is operational and only an individual machine requires restoration, meaning that the primary storage destination provides the best restore performance.

The second-tier (secondary) storage can be located off site (cloud, remote office location, etc.) and can serve as the disaster recovery (DR) site, which offers a path to the data if there is an outage.

[Get a primer on your options for moving backup, disaster recovery or business continuity processes to the cloud in "Data Protection In the Cloud: The Basics."]

What’s more, individual machines can be restored from the second-tier if the local backup is not available. Ideally, the data protection process takes the form of first backing up (or replicating) all target machines to the primary, local storage. That minimizes the impact on the production environment. Primary backups are later copied (archived) to the secondary storage during a time that ensures minimum impact on the network.

Managing Machines and Their Roles

Backup products today must include some type of system management, which allows administrators to select backup sources, as well as targets. Administrators also must be able to quickly tell if a system is part of a backup policy or an independent entity that must be manually backed up. These management capabilities prove to be the best way to include systems, audit results and query the backup status of any system.

Paragon Protect & Restore incorporates an extensive endpoint management system that can inventory systems, as well organize those systems by groups, status, domains and several other selectable elements. System management offers drill-down capabilities, which can expose the hardware and various settings to administrators to better organize backup selection and management.

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Virtual Machine Backups & Replicas

With the explosion of virtual machines across enterprise data centers, backing up those virtual systems has become a critical part of any backup strategy, meaning that advanced backup products must not only back those virtual systems up, but also provide a means to restore those systems, quickly and efficiently, even if the original hardware is no longer available.

Paragon's product provides several tools to deal with those virtual machines, ranging from a wizard- driven policy creator, to bare-metal recovery wizards. Virtual machines can be backed up in an active state and then restored to different hardware if needed. The product also supports converting physical machines to virtual machines, creating a pathway to migrate systems to different platforms.

For busy enterprises, however, just backing up virtual machines may not be enough, especially if there is a business continuity concern. For those businesses, it's critical to provide a pathway that automates the failover of virtual systems, by automatically backing those systems up and creating an easily launched replica to replace services if the primary virtual machine goes down.

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Paragon offers several options to create replicas. Replicas are created using a VM replication policy, which is wizard driven. Designed to work hand-in-hand with VMware technologies, the products ability to create and manage replicas is supplemented by many of the hooks built into VMware's management products. That allows administrators to craft expansive replication policies that also improve backup, continuity and virtual machine management. 

NEXT: Automated System Protection and Notifications

Options to automate backup processes are becoming a critical must-have for administrators. After all, most do not have the time to babysit backup jobs or manually execute backup tasks.

Paragon Protect & Restore provides automation options, first by incorporating wizards to drive policy creation and then offering default settings which are designed to meet the needs of most enterprises. The System Backup Policy drives critical selections, such as backup retention time, number of backup sessions to store, and retention driven by available storage space. 

However, automating backup doesn’t mean an administrator can ignore it. A backup product must offer some type of notification capability, which warns administrators of problems or validates success. Without a notification system, administrators would be forced to check backup logs on a daily basis, a time-consuming and easily overlooked manual procedure.

Along with some default notification capabilities, Paragon offers an advanced notification system, which gives administrators the ability to define notifications based upon the defined policies. In other words, administrators can create custom notifications for each policy and choose if and when to be notified of any event that occurs during the execution of a policy.

Paragon Protect & Restore is available in three editions that share a common management framework: VM, Workstation, and Server. Hardware and software requirements are relatively the same for each edition of the product. For the Administration Server, Backup Server, and Consoles, the basic requirements include: Microsoft Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8; Windows Server 2003 SP2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012; x86/x64 processor (minimum 2 cores/4 cores for Backup Server), and 2GB RAM.

Paragon offers volume discounts based upon machine count (number of servers, virtual servers, workstations) that is to be protected. The service starts at $999 per server (with pricing discounts as server count increases), $89 per workstation and $699 per socket (unlimited virtual machines).

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